'Everyday they're with us': Northerners march to remember MMIWG
'We have to have moments and opportunities to have these stories told,' said one participant
Dozens of people gathered for marches and vigils in Yellowknife and Whitehorse on Wednesday, to remember and honour loved ones who have been lost.
They were part of the first Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Honouring and Awareness Day. Similar events were held across the country.
In Whitehorse, more than 50 people of all ages and backgrounds gathered near the legislature building. They passed around feathers to represent 41 Indigenous women who have gone missing or been murdered in Yukon.
After marching to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, they dropped the feathers into the Yukon River. Families were then given a chance to share their stories.
"All of our loved ones that are missing and murdered are never, ever forgotten. Everyday they're with us — spirit, souls and mind," said Diane Lilley from the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, as she addressed the crowd.
Lilley said her younger sister was killed 16 years ago, on B.C.'s Highway of Tears. She said she's been waiting ever since for her sister's killer to be found and tried.
"One day we will be getting answers for our missing and murdered loved ones."
The group of demonstrators on Wednesday included Yukon's Culture Minister Jeanie Dendys, and Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston.
"For me as a male to be here, to help support, is very important to me," Johnston said.
"It allows us as leaders and community members to reflect on the realities that we face here in the community, in our territory."
'Safe space' for dialogue
In Yellowknife, demonstrators gathered at Somba K'e park and marched though the downtown, some carrying signs and placards with pictures of lost loved ones.
"We have to have moments and opportunities to have these stories told, by the people who are being directly affected," said Kiera-Dawn Kolson, a Tso'Tine-Gwich'in artist from Yellowknife.
Her face was painted red and white, and she wore a red coat, "in solidarity with the red dress campaign."
"Having opportunities like this to create a dialogue and create a safe space, to create awareness, is essential in this era of meaningful reconciliation," Kolson said.
With files from Alexandra Byers, Marc Winkler